The T-Shaped Design Engineer – using cohorts to explore how skills profiles differ through career stages

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: Dekoninck, Elies; Bridge, Liam
Series: ICED
Institution: University of Bath
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 3533-3542
DOI number:


The T-Shaped designer has previously been identified as a design engineer with the desirable set of skills for a successful career. Twelve design engineers ranging from novice to expert, were interviewed to gain an understanding of their skill set, how it has evolved and how it needs to evolve in order to be futureproofed. With the use of qualitative, quantitative data and the development of a novel engineering skills profiling method, this paper found that 75% of design engineers did not exhibit a T-shaped skill profile, but a skill shape that has been termed ‘M-shaped’ or ‘Comb-shaped’. The majority of participants exhibited a great depth of specialist skills in multiple disciplines, not limited to their immediate field of work. All participants exhibited a wide knowledge of skills that allowed them to work across different disciplines, which included electronics, management or manufacturing, and so the wide vertical bar of the T-Shape design predicted by previous literature has been supported.

Keywords: Design education, Training, Teamwork

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